Living "In Christ"
Written By © Jeff Shumate 2009
How many times have we as Christians been told what not to do? In other words, "Hey Christian, this how God wants you to live and this is how God does not want you to live." We may say to ourselves, "Ok, that sounds easy enough." After all, isn't it pretty black and white when it comes to the will of God, concerning our conduct as ambassadors for Christ? So we as believers set out to do the right thing, only to find that living the way God would like us to live not only seems difficult, but impossible. Many Christians today so desperately want to live the way God wants them to live, but just don't know how to do it. Let me encourage you with some words of our Lord, "for with God all things are possible." So what is the real problem? The problem is, many of us are told what to do, but are not told how to do it. I want to begin talking about getting on the road of "how to do it." By faith we can go from wanting, to walking the Christian way of life!
Let's say you have a certain weakness in your life, some sin that you just can't seem to get any victory over; you pick your poison! It could be a physical act of sin or maybe something in your thinking or attitude. There are perhaps thousands of different sins to choose from. You, as a Christian, practice this particular sin basically every time the opportunity arises. So you begin to focus in on this sin, committing yourself to victory over it. Pretty soon you become so focused on this particular sin that victory over it becomes the main focus of your life. You may or may not eventually stop practicing this one particular sin, but let's say for a moment you stop doing whatever it is you are doing. What next? "Well," you might say, "I better move on to the next weakness in my life." Many times we begin a checklist of sins that we need to, one by one, conquer! Our life becomes a big checklist of "things to be improved." We begin trying to improve our old man. The Christian life is not about improving our old man. My guess is that most of us don't even realize this is what we are doing, but nevertheless we are trying to improve our old man.
What exactly is the old man? The old man is not my term, but is a term God uses in the Bible. The old man is who we were before we placed our faith in Christ. Well isn't it only natural that we would try to improve ourselves from who we were before we were saved? Of course we should, shouldn't we? But let me ask you this: if you had a pet dog and it died, would you continue to take that dead dog to the groomer or the veterinarian? The answer is no. Why not? Because it would be pointless to worry about taking care of a dog that is dead, not to mention people would probably consider you to be insane! Right now you may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with victory over sin or my old man or anything?" Let me bring up what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans chapter six. "6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, …" Wow! When did that happen? The moment a person places their faith in Christ they are crucified. If you have placed your faith in Christ you have died, by way of crucifixion. Sorry if you missed the funeral! Funeral? Yes, Paul mentions a funeral, "4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death." Now we know, the believer died and was buried the moment they placed their faith in Christ. Now let me ask you this question, "Don't you think it is a little insane to try to improve a person that has died and been buried?" Just ponder on this question for a moment, and then lets discuss more on the old man.
Before salvation, we, "the old man," were under the power of sin. Our relationship to the sinful flesh was a brutal and controlling relationship. We were literally, slaves to sin! We were so dominated by the flesh in this relationship that there was no way possible from getting out from under its thumb. We needed a hero; somebody that would save us from the tyrant "the flesh." Jesus Christ is that hero! It was by His Work on the Cross-, that we were delivered from slavery to sin. That's right, we were not only delivered from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin! At the moment we believed in Christ for salvation, God identified us with the death and burial, of Jesus Christ. Why did God do this? You see the flesh was so powerful that the only way its power over us could be broken was by death. So God chose for us to die, with His Son! And then He had a funeral for us- to prove that we had really died! It is by this death and burial that God separated us from the power of sin over us.
So while we may want to try to improve our old man there really is no need to. Improving our old man is like taking a dead dog to the groomer or the veterinarian for a checkup! Herein lies the struggle; we spend all of our energy trying to improve our old man. Until we get in tune with our death and burial in Christ, we will remain with fruitless effort, on the road of slavery to sin. God never intended to improve our old man. He intended to crucify him. It is this crucifixion that sets us free!
Romans 6:4-5"4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, …"
It is by identification with His death and burial that we are liberated. It is by identification with His resurrection we are able live a totally new life, the Christian life!
Romans 6:6-8 "6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:"
Now we have begun learning about our identification with Christ. It is a fact that we Christians have been identified with the death and burial of Jesus Christ. It is by means of our death and burial that God separated us from the power of sin over us, but this is not all God has done. At the same time, we are also identified with Christ's resurrection. It is by means of identification with Christ's resurrection that we are able to live the Christian life. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6 "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Many things happen the moment a person is saved, but I challenge you to consider just two: one life ended and one life began.
It is God's desire for us to stop trying to improve our old man. Remember our old man is who we were before we placed our faith in Christ. God put the old man to death by way of crucifixion. The fact that God did this assures us that He never intended to make any improvements to the old man. If the old man died at the moment of salvation, then who exactly are we now? Paul tells us who we are in 2 Corinthians 5 "17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." God, in His Word, also uses the term "new man." (Eph 4:24) To keep it simple, we will say the "new man" is who we are after we place our faith in Christ for salvation. At the moment we were saved one life ended and one life began. The old man died the new man was created. Eternal life begins with the creation of the new man. Just let this sink in for a moment, and then we will talk more about what we know.
God in His word has laid out some facts in the Bible for us. Yes facts! The Bible says that, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, …" We are also told in Titus 1:2 that, "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; …" This means we can trust that anything in the Word of God is true, because the Bible was written by God and God cannot lie! We are told in Romans 6 to "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." We are told to consider two things true: 1) we are to consider ourselves dead to sin. Why? Because God crucified our old man and then buried him, and this separated us from the power of the sin nature over us. 2) We are told to consider ourselves alive to God. Why? Because we have been united with Christ's resurrection, God creating in us a new man, enabling us to "walk in newness of life." We should consider our new position in Christ true, based on the foundation of Almighty God, who says it so! With this in mind, we move forward.
Why then do we still walk as if our old man has not been crucified, and the new man has not been created? I believe it boils down to this very question: Do you trust that the Bible is in fact the Word of the Living God? We may not feel our old man crucified or our new man created, but does that mean it isn't true? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians "7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)" We don't have to see or feel our old man as crucified or our new man as created; we simply need to believe it by faith. Faith is a non-meritorious system of perception. In other words, God has done all the work; we simply believe what He has done. We are saved by faith, and we also walk by faith. Both salvation and our walk involve faith in the person and work of Christ on the cross. For salvation we have faith once, and it's a done deal. When it comes to walking in newness of life, we must exercise this same type of faith, moment-to-moment in our walk "in Christ."
How many times do you wake up in the morning and think, "My old man has been crucified, and I am a new creation in Christ!" or, "Thank you, God, for in Christ I am dead to sin but alive to God," and carry this attitude with you throughout the day. On the other hand, perhaps we wake up in the morning and say, "I'll do my best today, God, but don't expect much from this sinner saved by grace," only to turn in at the end of the day to say, "Father forgive me, I don't know why I continue living this way." How drab! How long could somebody possibly go on like that? Maybe you are one of the fortunate ones who grabbed onto the truth with both hands and has never let go from the point of salvation on, but if you are anything like me that isn't the case. There may have to come a point in your life where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. There is no worse existence on this earth than being a Christian and having that constant nagging voice in your head that says, "you don't have what it takes, you worthless sinner." You may be at this very point right now even, and if you are, that's not all bad. This might only mean you are ready to pull out your Ace, the last card left in the pile. Our Ace is the Word of God, and there needs to come a time when we set all else aside, trusting in God's Word as our only option. Has that time come for you?
Nowadays, I personally like to carry with me throughout the day what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Paul tells us in Colossians 3 "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." How our walk begins to change when, by faith, we continue to set our mind on who we now are in Christ. God tells us in Ephesians 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:" Whoa! Wait a minute now, this is getting deep - every spiritual blessing in heavenly places is all mine because I have been placed in union with Christ! WOW! It is at this time I want to suggest we back up and rest on two facts for a while: One life ended, one life began. Meditate on this, believe it, and let God consecrate this truth in your heart.
Romans 6:13 tells us to begin living the life God set out for us to live. "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." Presenting ourselves to God is done by faith, and if you decide to present yourself to God, I have this warning: Get ready to experience the riches of Christ as you start fulfilling God's plan for your life, through thick and thin.
We've learned a lot about our identification with Christ so far, and hopefully you'll take time to consider some of the things you have read so far. In review, we learned that our old man has been crucified, God thereby, breaking the power of sin over us (Romans 6:6-7). We learned that we have also been identified with Christ's resurrection (Romans 6:5a), and at the moment of salvation God made us a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have a new man in us. It is with this new man we are to walk in newness of life (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). We have learned that by faith we need to consider these things true, just as God says they are true (Romans 6:11).
Romans 6:5-12 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (NKJV)
So, what shall we do with all this information? How do we apply God's spiritual truth to our lives? Okay, our old man is dead and our new man is alive in Christ. Now what? Stop, and think for a minute. We, as believers, have been united with Christ. Do you understand what that means? If you are a believer in Christ, God saw you nailed on the Cross with His Son, God saw you Buried with His Son, And God saw you Raised to life with His Son. It's already been done in God's eyes! My friends, this is grace, in its purest form. Let's look at Romans 6:13.
Romans 6:1313And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (NKJV)
"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin…" Before salvation our old man was under the domination of the flesh, or the sin nature as some call it. We did not have a new man before salvation, only an old man. The old man can only do one thing: serve the appetite of the flesh. Remember, God has already told us that our old man has been put to death by way of crucifixion, and God has told us we are to consider this to be a true fact of life for us who have placed our faith in Christ-believed that He died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead the third day. So let me ask you this: if your old man is dead, should you take him out of the grave and serve the flesh with him? You see, that's what we are doing when we sin. We are ignoring the fact that our old man is dead; we willingly serve our sin nature with a dead old man when we no longer have to. Basically, God is telling us to stop doing this.
"…but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." Remember, we have been raised to life with Christ. We are a new creation; God has created a new man. The new man can only do one thing: serve the appetite of God. Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 "22that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Stop living out of the old man because he is dead, and start living out of the new man because he is alive! The new man is waiting in anticipation for the opportunity to serve God. This is who we really are in Christ! From the moment of salvation on we are a new creation in Christ. We can now enjoy our eternal life, walking as children of God, having intimate family relationship with our Creator (Galatians 4:7).
"…present yourselves to God…" In other words, make yourself available to God at all times, with your body, mind and soul. We should carry the attitude, "Here I am, God, making myself available to You to do as You please!" This is a surrendered attitude. "Come hell or high water, I'm with You." Personally, it's easier for me to follow the influence of God when times are tough, but what about the times in life when things seem to be going just dandy? Are we willing to present ourselves-body, mind, and soul-to the influence of God? Or do we get the feeling that we have finally arrived? I have news for you: when you stop breathing, you have then arrived! Following the influence of God is for the good times and the rough going. This is one of the great challenges of the Christian life. Are we willing to make ourselves available to God moment-to-moment above everything else, wherever we may be, in any given circumstances of life?
Do we look to the wisdom of man for God's direction? Or are we asking God to show us a sign? I think not. 1 Corinthians 1:22 says, " 22For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom…" Being in Christ, we are neither Jew nor Greek, but citizens of Heaven (Galatians 3:28; Philippians 3:20). As heavenly people, the Body of Christ, "we walk by faith not by sight"(2 Corinthians 5:7), seeking after the wisdom of God in the Work of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:24; 30). In this dispensation of Grace, the believer only has to, by faith, yield and choose obedience to the influence of God from within. From within, you might ask? Yes, from within; this is one of the great mysteries of this present age. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, "16Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" As believers in Christ, we are permanently indwelled by God (Ephesians 4:6; Colossians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:19). We look to this inner presence of God by which to be influenced. I say influenced because God will never control us. We have been given a great liberty in Christ; the question is how will we choose to use this liberty? Galatians 5:17 says, "13For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." That's right, we have been given freedom in Christ, to be used either to bring glorification to God and edification of the Body of Christ, or to be abused, seeking only to fulfill the selfish desires of the flesh.
God considers our old man dead and our new man alive in Christ. Do you believe God? If so, you should consider your old man dead and new man alive in Christ. Believing God, you are now ready to walk in "newness of life." Being a new creation in Christ, make yourself available to God. What will happen when you make yourself available to God? The Holy Spirit is going to influence your new man. Will you, by choice, follow that influence? Following the influence of God produces Christ-like character, walking in the works designed for you, and eternal reward for the faithful believer (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 3:14). This all brings eternal glory to God; glory in which you will share.
The alternative is a gross, waste of liberty in Christ, operating out of a dead old man, in vain, following the influence of the sin nature, when no longer under it's domination. For the believer, the old man is dead, and these physical bodies will one day follow. Any work produced from our old man, who can only follow the influence of the sin nature, will one day be tested, and will fail. Just as the old man and physical body go on to be nothing so will the works that they produce. The believer who squanders their spiritual life in time, while saved and will forever enjoy eternal life with the Lord, will suffer eternal loss, missing out on opportunity in time to bring glory to the Lord (Galatians 5:20-21; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Brothers and sisters, the choice is ours. How do we want to spend our time here on earth? Do we believe God at His Word or not? If not, enjoy your life in time, but remember, there will be no room for excuse in eternity. If you choose to believe God's Word, and you are still breathing, then it's time to get cracking! God still has works for you to walk in, and the Holy Spirit still desires to lead you into Christ-likeness and walk you through those works! Let's close by considering what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 2:20-2120I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (NKJV)